BROUGHTON Street is morphing fast, and perhaps one of the biggest changes has occurred below ground level.
The Ordinary Pub opened a few months ago in the basement location once occupied by Taco Abajo and T. Rex Mex, and locals will hardly recognize the subterranean space that once glittered with street art and Dia de las Muertas skulls.
Clean lines, stained glass and exposed brick now dominate the décor, the arched caverns warmly lit by old school Edison bulbs. Natural has replaced neon, metal tables exchanged for reclaimed wood.
Owner Mike Vaudrin, his partners and more than a few friends stripped the layers of paint off of the 150 year-old walls by hand, revealing a relaxed simplicity that was there all along.
“Our goal was to let the personality of the place speak for itself,” says Vaudrin, a longtime veteran of Savannah’s food and beverage scene now combining his front-of-the-house and kitchen skills for his first sovereign venture.
“We wanted it to feel comfortable and familiar, but with its own twist.”
That same philosophy applies to the menu: Traditional burgers, sandwiches and Lowcountry favorites receive creative treatment from Executive Chef Zach Starr, a classically-trained ace who left a private golf club in Alpharetta to find culinary adventure in Savannah.
Starr and Vaudrin have collaborated on dishes to entice the gastro pub-inclined palate: Tender pork belly braised in Dr. Pepper and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale comes tucked in a trio of sliders with a helping of sweet ‘n’ vinegary chowchow on the side ($11). Lowcounty mac-n-cheese comes as creamy as it should be, infused with andouille sausage and fat shrimp sautéed in butter ($16).
The Bacon Pesto burger ($13) is a 50/50 combo of pork and Angus beef, perfectly pink in the middle and topped with mozzarella, a fried green tomato and a crispy piece of woven bacon, an ingenious concept comprised of three strips of the smoked stuff braided and fused into a square.
“That way, you’re not chasing it all around the sandwich,” says Chef Starr.
Also notable are the lollipop Chicken Chops, Starr’s innovative take on wings ($12), and the Pub Steak Wheels, tenderized flank cuts rolled up with spinach, garlic and goat cheese and served with rosemary smashed potatoes and julienned veggies ($16).
Rounding out the “ordinary” menu are salads made with fresh, crisp greens from Kachina Farms in Rincon, al dente pasta dishes and slew of tasty tacos, an homage to the spot’s previous tenants. Desserts are homemade truffles and a deconstructed Key Lime pie, a divine confection of tart filling rolled in graham cracker crumbs then flash-fried.
While the focus is on the food, this is a pub, and that means drinking and eating hold equal billing. The bar offers a healthy line-up of draft beers along with a nicely curated wine list that includes a Malbec by the glass ($9).
Craft cocktails devised by resident mixologist Caroline Lecomte are reason enough to descend the stairs (located right next to Free People.) The Simple Ginger muddles peach, mint and lime in a base of Bayou rum and ginger beer; the Algoe Lately is named after a former co-worker and marries classic Four Roses bourbon with Aztec chocolate bitters.
“There are a lot of places to buy booze in this town,” acknowledges Vaudrin. “We want to make sure ours was top notch and complemented the menu.”
Vaudrin says The Ordinary Pub has been doing a brisk brunch business on Saturdays and Sundays (how could it not with Bacon Sausage Donut Sliders and bottomless mimosas?) and has attracted the hungry late night crowd (the kitchen is open until 1am.)
He and Chef Starr have also developed a separate menu for World of Beer, located across the street for easy delivery. WOB patrons can order sliders, giant deep-fried pretzels and the formidable Mac & Cheese Drop, a fusion of pork belly, pasta and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla that’s fried and topped with cheese and barbecue sauce.
As some downtown restaurants amp up their price points with Broughton’s transformation, the Ordinary Pub keeps things judicious with $6 daily lunch specials and $3 happy hours. Nothing on the menu is more than $16, and each plate is filled with generous servings of sides.
“We want to have something for the SCAD kid on a budget to the business executive with a corporate card,” says Vaudrin.
“To us, ‘ordinary’ means it includes everyone.”